Abu Dhabi: With an agenda of bolstering economic ties with the Gulf countries, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday landed in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The PM will hold talks with the country’s top echelon to enhance cooperation in key areas of trade and security.
"Hello UAE. I am very optimistic about this visit. I am confident the outcomes of the visit will boost India-UAE ties," PM Modi tweeted shortly after arriving in the UAE. PM Modi was received by Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi at the airport, in a departure from the protocol.
Earlier, the PM had described the Gulf country as a "mini-India" close to his heart.
About 2.6 million Indians live in the UAE, PM Modi said in an interview to Dubai-based newspaper Khaleej Times that it was "an anomaly" that an Indian Prime Minister is visiting the country after 34 years.
"India and UAE have everything to be a top priority for each other. This is the way I look at the UAE. The Gulf region is vital for India's economic, energy and security interests," said Mr Modi. "We have resolved to sustain regular high-level engagement and build a strong and comprehensive strategic partnership," he added.
Improving trade and investment ties between the two nations is high on the PM's agenda and his trip is packed with business meetings. Trade with the UAE is pegged at $60 billion a year, down from 2013 but still third highest after trade with the US and China.
UAE's concern over the spread of the terror group Islamic State in the region is also expected to feature in talks.
In the evening, PM Modi will visit the iconic Sheikh Zayed mosque in Abu Dhabi, built with marble brought in from all across the world, including from India. It also has the largest hand-woven carpet in the world, where thousands can offer prayers at the same time.
His next stop will be a residential camp that is home to some 28,000 Indians workers. The PM will visit their accommodation area and also interact with about 300 of them.
Tomorrow, he will go to the Dubai Cricket Stadium, where he will address about 50,000 Indians. The organisers had to close registration within days of it opening last week as the number of applications exceeded capacity.
They now plan to set up giant screens outside the stadium for those who want to hear the PM speak but could not get place inside.